Cannabis Or Pain Killers? A Chicago Doctor Makes A Compelling Argument

In an open letter to the Chicago Tribune, Chicagoland doctor Marc Sloan calls for better access to cannabis as a healthy alternative to pain killers and opioids. Opioids have been linked to pain killer addiction and in some cases, heroine addiction.

The important point Dr. Sloan shares is data—something that's been missing from the cannabis conversation for years due to cannabis being classified as a Schedule 1 class drug. Doctors and universities have suspicions cannabis can be helpful, but they cannot study it when it's listed as a Schedule 1 drug.

Last fall, Illinois medical marijuana dispensaries opened up for business making cannabis available. It's a healthy sign seeing doctors curious to not only understand medical marijuana, but advocate for it:

I have been a practicing physician in the Chicagoland area for more than 30 years with a specialty in pain medicine. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention draws attention to the fact that Illinois must allow patients the opportunity to choose cannabis over highly addictive and sometimes deadly prescription drugs.

Opioids and narcotics remain the primary drugs for treating chronic pain despite their dangerous side effects. According to the CDC, 44 people die each day from prescription drug painkiller overdose, and health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012. This epidemic is disproportionately affecting women, with a more than 400 percent increase in painkiller overdose deaths since 1999.

Cannabis has a critical role in treating pain, has minimal toxicity and presently no risk of lethal overdose. THC has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and there are cannabinoids receptors in the same areas of the brain that are shown to have changes in chronic pain.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the 2015 study "Cannabinoids for Medical Use" reports there was a 30 percent reduction of pain with the use of cannabinoids. Furthermore, Clinical Journal of Pain, in the article "Cannabinergic Pain Medicine," reported that 71 percent of the clinical studies examined found cannabinoids were associated with pain-relieving effects.

Like all present medication, cannabinoids are not the cure for chronic pain. However, it is a highly effective pain-management tool that is a safer alternative to many prescription drugs. The Illinois Department of Public Health and Gov. Bruce Rauner must allow physicians the opportunity to use medical cannabis as an effective treatment option.

— Dr. Marc Sloan, Deerfield, Pain Management Consultants

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